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Will the State Publish Test Scores by Teacher?

4/16/2013

During its April 5 meeting, the Utah State Board of Education voted to seek an opinion from the Utah Attorney General on whether to publicly release classroom-level assessment data from Utah's public schools. State-, district-, school-, and grade-level data on student performance is currently available through the state’s Public School Data Gateway.

Regardless of the outcome of this request, the UEA has asked the State Board to withhold the publication of classroom-level testing data until a conflict in the law can be resolved.

In a letter to members of the State Board, UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh called the conflict a “political issue” saying that “resolving it in favor of those advocating for reporting (classroom-level test scores) does nothing to advance the Board’s service on behalf of children or to public education.”

“The public release of classroom-level data is a misuse of the testing data. Accurately gauging teaching effectiveness is complex and requires multiple measures over time,” wrote Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “Publicly reporting the scores does not fully describe the effectiveness of a teacher and does nothing to improve instruction or student outcomes. Public release of classroom level data to parents only encourages the misuse and misinterpretation of such data.”

The publication of classroom-level data became more complicated when the Utah Legislature passed two measures in 2012 that appear contradictory. The School Performance Report law requires the publishing of test results "by class." However, in smaller classrooms, law requires the confidentiality of classroom-level data. In addition, the Public Education Employment Reform Act requires that individual teacher evaluation data, which includes classroom-level assessment scores of students, remain confidential.

Two bills were proposed during the 2013 Utah Legislative Session to resolve this conflict. Senate Bill 69: Assessment and Reporting of Student Performance, developed collaboratively with the education community (including the UEA), would have protected the personal privacy of student and classroom data. This bill failed in the Senate Education Committee. Senate Bill 133: School Performance Report Amendments would have required the public reporting of student standardized test scores by teacher. This bill passed the Senate Education Committee, but was not heard by the full Senate.

The Utah School Boards Association, the Utah School Superintendents Association, the Utah State Board of Education and the Parent Teacher Association are all on record opposing the practice of publicly reporting classroom-level test data.

“We support the idea that parents are entitled to detailed data about their child’s progress, growth and success in school. Such information is essential in ensuring that children reach their full potential,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh in her letter to the Board.

“No state currently requires the publication of individual classroom-level data,” she continued. “In districts where the release of individual classroom-level data has occurred, the results have been overwhelmingly negative for students, administrators, teachers, and school communities. The unintended consequences of such action have resulted in compromised student data, demoralization of administrators and teachers and misinterpretation of results because of the use of a single data source.”

In a New York Times editorial titled ‘Shame Is Not the Solution,’ Microsoft founder Bill Gates called public reporting of teachers’ individual performance assessments “a big mistake.” “I am a strong proponent of measuring teachers’ effectiveness, and my foundation works with many schools to help make sure that such evaluations improve the overall quality of teaching,” he said. “But publicly ranking teachers by name will not help them get better at their jobs or improve student learning. On the contrary, it will make it a lot harder to implement teacher evaluation systems that work.”

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